Essays on the Maorification of New Zealand by Michael Coote – Number 1
The LGNZ conspiracy against local democracy – An open letter to the government and public
Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) has attracted attention to itself recently by writing an open letter to the three party leaders of the Ardern coalition government, Jacinda Ardern, Winston Peters and James Shaw (see Appendix 1). The letter calls for sections 19ZA to 19ZG of the Local Electoral Act 2001 (LEA, see Appendix 1) to be abolished. These sections relate to the rules for binding polls of electors concerning establishment of Maori wards and Maori constituencies respectively in territorial authorities and regional councils. They are embedded in sections 19Z to 19ZI of the LEA and linked to its Schedule 1A, which specifies the formulae for deciding how many Maori ward/constituency representatives there should be for a given local government. Maori wards/constituencies in local government are the effective equivalent of the race-based Maori seats found in Parliament.
Who is LGNZ?
On its website LGNZ claims to be “the strong voice for great local government”. It elaborates that, “We are governed by our National Council, made up of 15 elected members throughout New Zealand. Our purpose is to deliver our sector’s Vision: ‘Local democracy powering community and national success’. We represent the national interests of councils in New Zealand and lead best practice in the local government sector. We provide advocacy and policy services, business support, advice and training to our members to assist them to build successful communities throughout New Zealand.”
The 18 rather than 15 elected members of the LGNZ National Council for the 2016 to 2019 triennium are: president and Dunedin mayor Dave Cull, vice president and Bay of Plenty regional councillor Stuart Crosby, Auckland city mayor Phil Goff, Wellington city mayor Justin Lester, Christchurch city mayor Lianne Dalziell, Bay of Plenty regional chair Doug Leeder, Nelson city mayor Rachel Reese, Matamata-Piako district mayor Jan Barnes, Waitomo district mayor Brian Hannah, Far North district mayor John Carter, Auckland city councillor Penny Hulse, Ruapehu district mayor Don Cameron, Upper Hutt city mayor Wayne Guppy, Tasman district mayor Richard Kempthorne, Gore district mayor Tracy Hicks, South Taranaki district councillor Bonita Bigham, Waitaki district deputy mayor Melanie Tavendale, and Waitemata local board chair Pippa Coom.
The LGNZ letter to the leaders of the Ardern government must be squared with the organisation’s avowed principles, particularly “best practice” leadership of local democracy in “successful communities”, not least because in demanding abolition of sections 19ZA to 19ZG of the LEA, LGNZ is advocating a significant and far-reaching change that will affect the existing legislated political rights of all local government electors – including Maori – throughout New Zealand. LGNZ president Dave Cull signed the open letter, but with LGNZ conspicuously promoting the missive on its website we may reasonably assume that all the other 17 members of the National Council stand behind the letter’s proposals and are therefore directly politically accountable for them, including to their electors in the local governments they represent. This accountability can be brought home to current members of LGNZ’s National Council at the 2019 triennial local government elections. In its open letter, LGNZ claims to be speaking for “our members, the 78 local authorities of New Zealand”. The government is thus being asked to believe that the entirety of LGNZ’s membership unanimously supports the letter’s demands and is therefore politically accountable for them without exception.
The letter posits that there is a serious problem concerning the LEA, in that, “Following its decision in 2001 to establish Maori constituencies for the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Parliament amended the LEA to give this power to councils, in consultation with their citizens. The amendment also allowed electors, through a binding poll, to either require a council to establish [Maori] wards and [Maori] constituencies or overturn a council decision to that effect. The changes to the LEA were intended to increase Maori representation in local authorities but the intent has failed, largely due to the nature of the poll provisions; provisions which do not apply to any other type of ward or constituency. The binding poll only applies to Maori wards and constituencies.” The problem, it appears, is that LGNZ thinks the LEA should facilitate ongoing creation of many Maori wards/constituencies, but pesky polls get in the way contrary to what Parliament supposedly intended in affording ordinary citizens the right to vote on them.
LGNZ’s letter is concerned with a period of 16 years from the 2002 LEA amendment permitting Maori wards/constituencies to the present day. This should be ample time, one might think, for public opinion to have demonstrated clearly whether or not it supports Maori wards/constituencies in local government, as Parliament clearly intended it should be allowed to decide. By the LGNZ’s own reckoning, the answer is a resounding but not overwhelming “No!”. In the letter we learn that two LGNZ members have acquired Maori wards/constituencies since 2002, “the Waikato Regional Council, by resolution, in 2013 and the Maori wards, agreed by poll, in Wairoa in 2016”, which proves beyond reasonable doubt that these wards/constituencies are possible under the current LEA, including by poll. The letter continues, “Over this period many polls have been held at the request of iwi to establish Maori wards only to be lost and in a number of instances councils have resolved to establish Maori wards only to have their decisions overturned by a poll of voters, for example, in New Plymouth District prior to the 2016 local elections”. For the record, the New Plymouth binding poll result was 83% opposed to a Maori ward versus 17% in favour.
“Currently five councils have resolved to establish Maori wards; these are Kaikoura District Council, Manawatu District Council, Western Bay of Plenty District Council, Whakatane District Council and Palmerston North City Council, and each council is facing a binding poll that could reverse their decisions,” the letter goes on to claim. The letter fails to state exactly how many local authorities actually want Maori wards/constituencies, listing only eight specifically, or 10% of its membership, and provides no evidence for how many polls have in fact been held and, of those, how many local communities have rejected Maori wards/constituencies, with the exception of New Plymouth. LGNZ should already have, or easily be able to obtain, statistics on Maori ward/constituency initiatives and polls from its 78 members, rather than resorting to vague generalisations designed to suggest that there is an urgent and widespread crisis for central government to address immediately. Perhaps the facts are not so amenable to LGNZ’s machinations.
We see the real beef that LGNZ has with the LEA as it presently stands when the letter continues, “Should any of the [five] polls succeed (a simple majority is all that is required) then not only will the proposed Maori wards not be established, but no future consideration of Maori wards will be able to take place until after the 2022 local authority elections.” This gripe dovetails in with the letter’s previous comments about polls of electors in general, and in six of the named local authorities in particular. However, LGNZ’s statement is technically incorrect, because it should instead continue on to say, “but no future consideration of Maori wards will be able to take place until after the 2022 local authority elections for Kaikoura District Council, Manawatu District Council, Western Bay of Plenty District Council, Whakatane District Council and Palmerston North City Council.” The binding polls apply only to the local authorities in which they are held, and do not represent a blanket ban across the country – so why would LGNZ seemingly try to mislead the government and public on this important point unless it was trying to inflate the issue out of all proportion?
LGNZ is plainly targeting binding polls, which amount to the right in law of voters to decide whether or not they want Maori wards/constituencies in their local government, including the right to review and reverse the decisions of their local authorities who have decided to impose Maori wards/constituencies. The organisation has its nose out of joint because it deems that Maori wards/constituencies are not being established at a fast enough rate and faces the embarrassment – in its eyes – that the five new polls pending could potentially vote down the imposition of previously resolved Maori wards. On what grounds does LGNZ sanctimoniously presume that it is charged with remedying a situation that few others seem to have an issue with? Why is LGNZ so morally superior that it flies in the face of public opinion and seeks to have its own way without any obvious mandate from local authority electors, whom it apparently intends stifle within politically-correct, socially-engineered “successful communities”?
LGNZ is engaged in a power grab. It wants to ensure its members are not subject to public polls concerning Maori wards/constituencies. The reason for this is that LGNZ supports race-based Maori wards/constituencies and wants its members to be able to impose them unchecked. Thus does LGNZ serve local democracy: it is really engaged in self-serving and self-dealing for its own ideological purposes and the aims and objectives of its institutionalized membership of local government bureaucrats and elected officials. Its concerns certainly do not lie in protecting the legitimate public interest and legislated democratic rights of local communities and their electors.
This is Putinesque “managed democracy”, which entails depriving members of local communities of an individual democratic right expressly written into law. Of great concern is that LGNZ, self-appointed defender and promoter of “great local government”, “local democracy powering community”, “successful communities”, and “best practice” leadership has an evident problem with community democratic decision making by “simple majority”. It is clear that LGNZ is hypocritically opposed to majoritarian democracy when it does not suit its own agenda, and in this regard LGNZ is an anti-democratic wolf in sheep’s clothing. More of the reasons given by LGNZ for this chicanery and gerrymandering later on.
What does the LEA provide for that LGNZ wants abolished?
Under the heading “Maori wards and Maori constituencies” in the LEA, and dated 2002, we find section 19Z and the following sections 19ZA to 19ZI, making 10 sections in total. LGNZ wants the Ardern government to abolish seven of those sections, namely sections 19ZA to 19ZG. Implicitly it wants to keep three of the sections in the LEA, namely 19Z, 19ZH, and 19ZI, albeit with modifications in relation to reference to polls. This distinction between sections to be removed and sections to be retained lies at the heart of LGNZ’s objectives in its open letter.
Section 19Z is well summed up in its title, namely “Territorial authority or regional council may resolve to establish Maori wards or Maori constituencies”. LGNZ wants this power to be retained for its members, but untrammelled by polls. Section 19ZH specifies that the number of Maori ward/constituency and general ward/constituency representatives is to be calculated as per formulae set out in Schedule 1A of the LEA (see worked examples in Appendix 2). Schedule 1A makes explicit how voters and their elected representatives are to be racially identified and segregated at the local government level under the guise of Maori versus general representation. Section 19ZI sets out rules by which the Local Government Commission provides guidelines to local authorities “in relation to reviews of representation or minor alterations to boundaries”. Nothing here for LGNZ to oppose, it seems.
Sections 19ZA to 19ZG cover polls of voters regarding the establishment of Maori wards/constituencies and it is in regard to this part of the LEA that LGNZ has mobilized to destroy a democratic right specified in law. Section 19ZA requires that if a territorial authority or regional council resolves to establish Maori wards/constituencies under section 19Z, then it must give public notice of the right of its electors to demand a binding poll on the decision. Section 19ZB covers the right of voters to demand a poll themselves if at least 5% commit to one. Section 19ZC contains rules for a valid demand for a poll, while section 19ZD permits territorial authorities and regional councils to call for polls at their own initiative. Section 19ZE specifies certain limitations on polls, while section 19ZF sets out the procedure for holding polls, and section 19ZG governs the effects of completed polls.
All of this intricate legal machinery for allowing local communities to decide for themselves through a majoritarian democratic vote if they want Maori wards/constituencies is what LGNZ wants unceremoniously ripped out of the LEA. Yet it should be noted that Maori have rights equal with other electors to demand and vote in these polls, as LGNZ concedes when it states that “many polls have been held at the request of iwi to establish Maori wards….” An irony of LGNZ’s position is that it would strip Maori of democratic rights they share equally in law with all New Zealanders. Like their fellow New Zealanders, Maori would be democratically impaired by the proposed abolition of sections 19ZA to 19ZG.
The letter’s reference to 2022 reflects the forward effect of the LEA’s rules concerning when and for how long Maori wards/constituencies can be created in a local authority. Thus section 19Z (c) states that “[A resolution under this section] …. takes effect for 2 triennial general elections of the territorial authority or regional council, and any associated election, and continues in effect after that until either— (i) a further resolution under this section takes effect; or (ii) a poll of electors of the territorial authority or regional council held under section 19ZF takes effect.” To be consistent with its explicit anti-poll, pro-council position, LGNZ should support section 19Z (c)(i) in the power it confers on local authorities to perpetuate Maori wards/constituencies at their own initiative, but oppose section 19Z (c)(ii) because that permits voters potentially to put the kibosh on Maori wards/constituencies by voting them down at polls. Under the LEA, a poll that defeats a resolution to establish Maori wards/constituencies is effective for two triennial terms (there are variations on how this time span is determined in practice), and thus blocks the establishment of Maori wards/constituencies for a finite period.
What are LGNZ’s arguments for abolishing LEA sections 19ZA to 19ZG?
LGNZ’ open letter sets out three arguments for its cause. The first is that the poll provisions are unacceptable racial discrimination against Maori because they do not apply to the establishment of other types of wards/constituencies. The letter asserts the polls are “inconsistent with the principle of equal treatment enshrined in the Treaty of Waitangi.” The second argument is that the polls are harmfully divisive in that they “reduce a complex issue to a simple binary choice, which, by encouraging people to take sides, damages race relations in our districts.” LGNZ – the champion of “best practice” in local democracy – then interpolates its alternative view that, “Matters of representation and relationships should be addressed in a deliberative manner that employs balanced and considered dialogue – not by poll.” The third is that polls are not necessary because if electors disagree with a local authority establishing Maori or other types of wards/constituencies, they can hold the authority to account at the next triennial election. LGNZ then claims “this is how representative democracy is intended to work”.
This melange of muddled and deceptive reasoning does not stack up. For one matter, LGNZ scores an own goal when it asserts “equal treatment enshrined in the Treaty of Waitangi” in order to argue for unequal treatment of Maori in local government representation. LGNZ cannot have it both ways, but it is good to see the rarely cited third article of the Treaty – In consideration thereof Her Majesty the Queen of England extends to the Natives of New Zealand Her royal protection and imparts to them all the Rights and Privileges of British Subjects – being upheld so publicly by an organ of government. Article three was efficacious early on because it ended the practice of slavery among Maori. May we hear much more such unequivocal support for article three from both central and local government in future. Article three is the antidote to persistent and untruthful abuses of the Treaty to justify separate and unequal rights and privileges for Maori under articles one and two.
If Maori under the Treaty share rights to equal treatment in law with all other New Zealanders, then either they have no right to separate race-based representation in wards/constituencies exclusive to themselves, or else all races and ethnicities have the same equal right to demand their own separate and exclusive representation in wards/constituencies. The existence of Maori seats in Parliament is no argument for the imposition of the same raced-based separation of representation in local government. The Maori seats were originally intended to be a temporary affirmative action to ensure adult Maori males had direct Parliamentary representation under the discriminatory franchise rules of mid-19th century New Zealand. That these racially defined seats still exist today is due to the moral cowardice of successive Parliaments. In the early 21st century Maori enjoy in common with all other New Zealanders the same political rights and opportunities in respect of local government voting, candidacy, elections and representation, so there is no need to foster separate race-based parallels to the Maori seats, Wairoa, Waikato and Bay of Plenty notwithstanding.
There is no discrimination in permitting all local community electors regardless of their race the equal right to determine in a binding poll whether they want unequal rights and representation applying to the exclusive benefit of Maori embedded in their local government’s elective structure. Of necessity, if Maori – or anyone else – have unequal rights in local government representation, then no one has equal rights therein except as apply respectively inside groups of persons arbitrarily compartmentalized under racial definitions. The end result is the destruction of equality across the local community. All local community electors without exception should have identical rights to decide on an informed basis whether this should be so, as the LEA correctly provides for and Parliament wisely understood.
LGNZ in actual fact promotes racial discrimination in local government by attempting to ensure that its members monopolise decisions to introduce Maori wards/constituencies through the mechanism of destroying the right to polls. It introduces a red herring where it compares Maori wards/constituencies with others types that are not premised upon race, eg., land use zoning-based urban and rural wards. The difference between Maori wards/constituencies and other types is one of essential kind and not mere degree. It is unique among wards/constituencies that race alone is the qualifying criterion for the Maori variety and that distinction legitimately calls for additional checks and balances such as polls represent. Land use zoning rules can change with a change of council, but the LEA locks in at least two consecutive terms for Maori wards/constituencies, a significant difference that electors are correctly enabled to be polled on.
The “simple binary choice” condemned by the second argument is the same “simple majority” denigrated by LGNZ’s letter as the criterion by which a majoritarian vote is decided. If this prejudicial approach is deemed acceptable in blackening the standing of polls, then why not do away with voting on local authorities or even at the National Council of LGNZ, where members are normally required to cast their votes on a simple majoritarian polling basis for or against motions put before them? Yet stupidly by its very opposition to polls, LGNZ calls for the abolition of the LEA’s section 19ZD, which would close off a valid and widely accepted avenue for its members to ask their communities if they want Maori wards/constituencies. When LGNZ’s argument appeals to a holier-than-thou “deliberative manner that employs balanced and considered dialogue – not by poll”, the unstated premise is plain that there is intrinsic merit in entertaining separate race-based representation in local government, discussion of which should be contained, directed, channelled, managed and manipulated to preconceived outcomes by LGNZ’s members, including via separate, secretive and preferential consultation with Maori as is already widely practiced in central and local government.
The delicacy of LGNZ’s recommended procedure – supposedly called for because the right to polls “damages race relations in our [whose?] districts” – is no doubt intended to skirt around the bald fact that the public is being asked by LGNZ and at least some of its members to swallow race-based representation in local government as the desirable norm and the consequent subversion of equality between New Zealanders and defilement of the validity of majoritarian democracy. LGNZ needs to find a way to gussy up this corruption of society, and a good place to start is the removal of “simple binary choice” from the purview of electors. This task plays to the prejudices of LGNZ and its allies who support Maori co-governance in local government. Anomalously, in respect of polls concerning establishment of Maori wards/constituencies, it seems majoritarian democracy is not to be permitted – indeed stamped out altogether – and the process entirely controlled by local authorities and not directly by the communities they claim to represent.
The assertion that voters can hold local authorities to account at triennial elections for resolving to establish unpopular Maori wards/constituencies is disingenuous. As explained, the LEA provides that the establishment of a Maori ward/constituency applies for at least two subsequent triennial terms and can be extended indefinitely thereafter. Therefore even if voters throw out the elected members of their local authority for bringing in Maori wards/constituencies, they are still bequeathed those Maori wards/constituencies and their representatives with voting rights on the local authority for at least six years, and consequently the number of general seats will also be affected over that time, as per Schedule 1A of the LEA. LGNZ knows this only too well (as is implied in its reference to 2022), and wants to retain that part of the system in so far as it suits its members. In its audacious mendacity LGNZ no doubt hopes and expects that most of those to whom it addresses its open letter will not understand what is entailed concerning the persistency of Maori wards/constituencies .
In summary, LGNZ’s arguments are most charitably described as thin gruel for justifying the deprivation of rights enshrined in sections 19ZA to 19ZG of the LEA. Less charitably, they can be characterised as a morally and intellectually reprehensible betrayal of its stated lofty values and objectives to lead local government in best practice. In its open letter LGNZ has pounced upon certain recent and current events in local democracy its National Council disagrees with, namely polls that have prevented, or are likely to prevent, establishment of Maori wards/constituencies at the resolution of territorial authorities or regional councils – that is to say the members of LGNZ. In opposing these polls and the entirely legitimate democratic process upon which they are based, LGNZ is white anting an expressly legislated right of local community electors to vote freely and according to their consciences on whether or not they want race-based representation structures within their local government.
That LGNZ is evidently so agitated over the polls betrays it is dissatisfied that many local communities do not want Maori wards/constituencies and will vote against them if given the chance. Resolving to eliminate forms of democracy it cannot tolerate, LGNZ becomes anti-democratic and authoritarian. In this respect LGNZ is at odds with the communities its members claim to represent. LGNZ is cherry picking the parts of democracy its wants to function in local government to suit the exigencies of a racially motivated plan that is simply not explained in any adequate degree in its open letter. This points to a potential conspiracy being undertaken by LGNZ to promote Maori-co-governance as an essential and ineradicable element in local government. The question arises as to whether there is any other party involved and who that might be.
LGNZ’s suppressed conflict of interest
There is more than meets the eye to LGNZ’s sally into remaking the LEA after its own racialising image. In a precursor manoeuvre the Maori Party was reported two years ago as presenting a one-man petition to Parliament on behalf of New Plymouth District’s mayor Andrew Judd. Mr Judd was miffed that a binding poll had resoundingly overturned his council’s resolution to introduce a Maori ward. In an article entitled “Petition to Parliament calling for a law change to establish Maori wards”, Stuff reported (April 12, 2016) as follows: “Judd said no other ward decision, including rural wards, could be forced to a binding poll and he wanted Maori wards to be given the same standing.” Mr Judd was quoted as saying, “‘When the council resolves those wards they don’t have to go to a binding petition or poll yet a Maori ward does. That to me is divisive and racist.” His words prefigure arguments put up by LGNZ in its open letter.
Maori Party MP at the time, Te Ururoa Flavell, who presented the petition to Parliament, was reported as summarizing Mr Judd’s position as wanting “the House of Representatives to consider a law change to establish Maori wards by following similar rules for setting up other local government wards.” Stuff quoted Mr Flavell as arguing, “Everyone is aware of the low participation of Maori in local government and the existing legislation is clearly inadequate. A law change is needed to ensure that tangata whenua views are provided across the country. The fact that five per cent of the voting public can challenge any decision related to Maori representation is disheartening and means Maori will almost always be defeated in this process.” Mr Flavell’s words appear to have been recycled in LGNZ’s letter, including his deliberate confusion between the minimum 5% of electors required to demand a poll and the outright majority needed to decide one.
Although now out of Parliament, the Maori Party served assiduously when in the House of Representatives as the mouthpiece and cat’s paw of the Iwi Chairs Forum (ICF). It is safe to assume that the Judd/Flavell position in 2016 was in consonance with the views and policies of the ICF. The ICF is a leading advocate of “Maori First” racial chauvinism, imposition of associated rights and privileges for Maori not shared by other New Zealanders, and a strong and determined supporter of Maori co-governance in local authorities. In early August, 2015, the ICF and LGNZ signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between themselves in which they committed to work closely together. This six-page document (see link in Appendix 1) needs to be read in conjunction with LGNZ’s open letter, which curiously makes no mention of the MoU.
Of particular relevance to attempts by LGNZ and before that the Maori Party to purge the LEA of the polling sections, the MoU contains the following clauses:
5. LGNZ and the ICF acknowledge: (c) the importance of the relationship between iwi and local government; and (d) that the quality of the relationships between local government and iwi varies and there is a need for the local government sector to improve the focus on building council/iwi relationships, recognising that each council in its areas of responsibility will have direct relationships with relevant iwi and hapu.
9. The purpose of this Memorandum of Understanding is to: (a) establish a structural and operational relationship between the ICF and LGNZ and allow the parties to continue to build and maintain a strong and mutually beneficial relationship.
C. Working Principles: 11. The parties will work together in a manner that reflects: … (g) timely raising of issues and a ‘no-surprises’ approach.
D. Meetings: 12. This Memorandum of Understanding will be given effect through a one-to-one relationship between the ICF and the National Council of LGNZ.
E. Matters of Strategic Significance: 15. The parties will discuss and seek to reach a consensus on matters of strategic significance. 16. Matters of strategic significance include (but are not limited to): … (b) local democratic representation and decision-making.
The MoU is signed for the ICF by Ta Toby Curtis and Rahui Papa, and for LGNZ by its former president and now National Party MP Lawrence Yule and Stephen Woodhead, chair of the Regional Sector Group. The latter group is proposed in the MoU to set up a parallel close working relationship with the Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group concerning freshwater management.
All very cosy and the apparent wellspring of LGNZ’s latest burst of activity over changing the LEA in a way that will most benefit not ordinary electors or members of local communities, nor even necessarily LGNZ’s members, but LGNZ’s partner since August 2015, the ICF, and the Maori tribes and corporations the latter represents and whose interests it tirelessly promotes. There is an appearance of conflict of interest in LGNZ’s public position as espoused in its open letter, which seems calculated to serve the wishes of the ICF, a race-based organisation that uniquely enjoys an MoU-mandated “one-to-one relationship” with the National Council of LGNZ. The ICF could well have written LGNZ’s letter and may even have contributed to it, albeit that the Judd/Flavell line of argument was already in the public domain in April 2016 and all LGNZ needed to do in pitching its position in March 2018 was to filch the Judd/Flavell playbook and stamp its letterhead on the cover.
LGNZ has some explaining to do and a burden of disclosure to make over why it appears to be pandering to the ICF’s bidding with its open letter. The MoU requires that LGNZ works on strengthening relationships between itself and its members with the ICF and its supporting cast of Maori tribes and corporations, with a special “strategic emphasis” on “local democratic representation and decision-making”. LGNZ is certainly working overtime on that particular strategic emphasis to judge by its letter and could be seen as a front for the ICF in this matter. All this within a “no-surprises” working framework between the two parties.
The complaints that LGNZ utters in its letter about lack of public support for Maori wards/constituencies as expressed in polls of electors indicate that its position is isolated, extremist, indeed racist, and nearer the elitist position of the ICF than genuinely reflective of the wider New Zealand community it professes to be serving through all its alleged best practice, sound policies, and fine intentions. There is no sense of urgency or warning of any problems arising concerning the LEA or Maori representation in local authorities reported in LGNZ’s June 2017 publication “Council-Maori Participation Arrangements, Section 4 “Representation and advisory structures” (pp. 14-5, see Appendix 1), so there must have been some other precipitating stimulus to chivvy LGNZ along into writing its March 2018 open letter. The proximate cause is patently the looming five binding polls, but the underlying and suppressed motivation is surely craven appeasement of its MoU-acknowledged, co-equal one-to-one partner, the ICF.
What should happen
The LGNZ’s open letter should be dismissed as a serious proposal for amending the LEA. It is too obviously compromised and contaminated by LGNZ playing complaisant handmaiden to the interests of the ICF and its allies intent upon inserting Maori co-governance throughout local government in New Zealand. There are only two satisfactory courses of action to advocate for the LEA, and one is better than the other, although both have the great advantage that they are not LGNZ’s position, which is narrowly focused on abolishing binding polls of electors. The first option is to do nothing and let the LEA stand as it is. Parliament was right to recognise in 2002 that if Maori wards/constituencies were to be permitted by law in local government, then a mechanism like binding polls of electors was essential to preserve the abiding integrity and acceptability of the process for creating these racial wards/constituencies. The second and better option is to abolish all the Maori ward/constituency sections of the LEA from 19Z through to 19ZI and do away with race-based representation altogether in New Zealand’s local government.
LGNZ has provided a problem and not a solution in its proposed tinkering with the LEA to uproot legislated political rights and deprave majoritarian democracy apparently for the mere sake of accommodating the ICF and its fellow travellers who want to capture entrenched and irreversible racially-defined structural and operational power and influence within local government entities across the country. LGNZ is not the leader in its sector nor the builder of successful communities it purports to be for so long as it promotes the selective abolition of binding elector polls permitted under sections 19ZA to 19ZG of the LEA simply in order to promote and facilitate local government representation based on race. Surely LGNZ has better things to be getting along with in its self-declared vision of “local democracy powering community and national success”. Additionally, urgent questions should be raised and accountabilities sheeted home within LGNZ as to how it managed to blunder into the open letter fiasco and what its mission for all New Zealanders in their local communities really is.
Links to sources:
Local Electoral Act 2001:
LGNZ Open Letter to Ardern Government:
Memorandum of Understanding between LGNZ and Iwi Chairs Forum
Council-Maori Participation Arrangements/LGNZ
Stuff article on Judd petition:
Worked examples of how local authorities would include Maori wards or constituencies as calculated under the formulae supplied in Appendix 1A of the LEA. The formulae are intended to produce Maori representation on local authorities that is proportionate to the number of Maori living within their local authority’s area. The formulae and their explanations are copied from the LEA’s Schedule 1A, but the numbers inserted to demonstrate outcomes are hypothetical and do not represent any particular territorial authority or regional council.
Example 1: Territorial authority ABC
Formula: The number of members to be elected by the electors of 1 or more Maori wards of the district of a territorial authority (Maori ward members) is to be determined in accordance with the following formula [note: numbers are assumed for the sake of the example]:
nmm = mepd ÷ (mepd + gepd) × nm, where—
nmm is the number of Maori ward members = x
mepd is the Maori electoral population of the district = 20,000
gepd is the general electoral population of the district = 100,000
nm is the proposed number of members of the territorial authority (other than the mayor) = 12
20,000/(20,000 + 100,000) x 12 = 2 Maori ward members
12 – 2 = 10 general ward members
Example 2: Regional Council XYZ
Formula: The number of members to be elected by the electors of 1 or more Maori constituencies of a regional council (Maori constituency members) is to be determined in accordance with the following formula[note: numbers are assumed for the sake of the example]:
nmm = mepr ÷ (mepr + gepr) × nm, where—
nmm is the number of Maori constituency members = x
mepr is the Maori electoral population of the region = 50,000
gepr is the general electoral population of the region = 450,000
nm is the proposed number of members of the regional council = 20
50,000/(50,000 + 450,000) x 20 = 2 Maori constituency members
20 – 2 = 18 general constituency members